In the early 1980s, T. Colin Campbell set out to discover the perfect protein. His motivation was exemplary. He wanted to help the world's hungry find enough food to eat-food that would enrich their lives and bring health and healing to their bodies.
Dr Campbell had been raised on a dairy farm and hoped that children everywhere could one day enjoy the rich bounty to which he'd grown accustomed. There had to be ways of raising livestock that would make their milk and meat more nutritious and available to more people.
During his search for this new and improved source of protein, the farm boy turned epidemiologist received the opportunity to conduct a study that would revolutionise the world of nutrition, lifestyle and disease. It would be the most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken in the history of medicine-research that the New York Times labelled, "The Grand Prix of Epidemiology."
Dr Campbell and his team of scientists packed their bags and headed for China, where they discovered that this vast nation plays host to two very distinct lifestyles: country living and city living. Even more importantly, these two lifestyles are characterised by two separate and distinct diets.
Rolling up their sleeves, the researchers went to work. And as data streamed in, a startling picture began to emerge. The Chinese who lived in or near the cities of that great land suffered from diseases that their country counterparts somehow managed to evade. The country folk also lived longer, carried around much less body fat and reported far fewer instances of cancer.
To rule out the possibility that environment or heredity made the difference, researchers studied what happened when a country person moved to the city, and vice versa. The results spoke for themselves. When someone from one group took on the lifestyle and the diet of the other group, he or she also experienced the health benefits-or the rapid degradation of health-common to that group. It became obvious that the change was driven neither by environment nor heredity. But what did explain the difference?
Finally, Dr Campbell and his team had seen enough. Their tests had been run and rerun. Data had been collected and meticulously analysed. Conclusions- based on exacting scientific evidence- took shape. It all came down to one statement, as expressed by Dr Campbell in his groundbreaking book, The China Study. After years of lab research and fieldwork, he concluded that "everything in food works together to create health or disease." Expanding on that statement, he added, "The evidence now amassed from researchers around the world shows that the same diet that is good for the prevention of cancer is also good for the prevention of heart disease, as well as obesity, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's, cognitive dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and other disease... . There is one diet to counteract all of these diseases: a whole foods, plant-based diet."
People who lived in China's rural areas ate a whole food, plant-based diet. People packed in China's bulging cities, didn't.
Which brings us to the question raised by the title of this article: "Does God Care What We Eat?" Dr Campbell certainly does! Near the close of his book, he states, "We have reached a point in our history where our bad habits can no longer be tolerated. We, as a society, are on the edge of a great precipice: we can fall to sickness, poverty and degradation, or we can embrace health, longevity and bounty. And all it takes is the courage to change." He isn't talking about social issues or the need for political restructuring here. He's talking about the food we eat.
I'd like to add one word to the good doctor's statement. And all it takes is the courage to change back. Back to where? Back to what God had in mind for us when He created us. Back to the ideal set in place 6000 years ago. Back to Eden.
dinner in the Garden
The Bible mentions two very special interactions between God and humans-instances when the Creator made decisions based on what He knew to be best instead of compromising in order to accommodate a whining, angry, clueless mob or individual. The first such exchange took place soon after Adam and Eve came into existence.
On this occasion, God was acting as tour guide to the perfect couple, showing them around their newly created home.
What many Bible readers miss in this scene is what God planned for Adam and Eve and their descendants to eat. "Be fruitful and increase in number," the Creator told them. "Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Genesis 1:28).
Animals were to be an important part of the human experience. God even instructed Adam to give them names (Genesis 2:19, 20).
Then the Creator opened the doors of the Eden grocery store. "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food" (Genesis 1:29).
God's next statement may shock some who read it. "And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food" (verse 30). If T. Colin Campbell had been standing next to Adam and Eve on that day, he probably would have said, "And, I know why."
God cared a great deal about what Adam and Eve and their descendants were to eat. He set the table for their first meal, and on it was found the very same whole food, plant-based diet that today protects so many rural Chinese from a long list of diseases. Eden's "presin" foods weren't manufactured in feed lots or even on family dairy farms. They grew in a garden! The only processing these foods experienced was the act of being picked, dug or sliced, followed, of course, by a lot of satisfying chewing.
Sin has a nasty way of messing up a good thing-even a God-ordained good thing. It wasn't long before the very animals to which Adam had given names began appearing on dinner plates and restaurant menus. Man developed an "if it tastes good, eat it" attitude. As a result, health deteriorated, longevity plummeted and sin found a powerful foothold in the human lifestyle. Satan transformed man's taste for fruits and vegetables into a taste for blood.
in the temple
Four thousand years after Adam and Eve chose appetite over obedience, the situation was grim. Men and woman everywhere had discovered endless ways to defile themselves. This prompted the apostle Paul to ask members of the church in Corinth: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him" (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17).
Exactly how does God destroy a temple destroyer?
It's scientifically proven that eating a high-fat, low-fibre diet (animal products are mostly fat with zero fibre) destroys human life. That's what Dr Campbell and his team discovered-much to their surprise. But, how does God respond to such a violation of our bodies? The Bible provides the answer. The temple in Jerusalem serves as the setting.
Just after Christ's triumphal entry into that beautiful city, He did what most people who came to Jerusalem did. He stopped by the temple. What He found brought out a side of Him that most of His followers had never seen. "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers' " (Matthew 21:12, 13).
That day, God destroyed a whole crowd of temple destroyers. How? He made them stop doing what they were doing. He toppled their tables and scattered their merchandise. He reminded them of why the temple existed. He aggressively and effectively "cleaned house."
That's precisely what God wants to do within our body temples. He wants us to stop defiling them with unhealthy food choices. He wants to rummage through our cupboards and toss out those items that shorten our lives, fill us with disease and rob us of clear thinking. He wants to remind us that there is a diet specifically created for our well-being-one that respects all of His creation including the animals that are supposed to be our friends. He wants to clean house.
He also wants us to be ready to enjoy a future meal that He's preparing for us. When we seat ourselves at heaven's dinner table, what He places before us will look very familiar to Adam and Eve and will cause T. Colin Campbell to smile approvingly. Our heavenly diet will reflect God's pronouncement that "they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
Does God care what we eat? He always has. He always will.